Calgary’s River Access Strategy goes to City Council in March 2017

Calgary’s RIVER ACCESS STRATEGY addresses the Notice of Motion to Calgary City Council approved in June 2016 with the intention of providing easier, safer, legal, and environmentally sustainable river access along the Bow and Elbow rivers. 

This strategy aims to:

  • Provide increased user access to the Bow and Elbow rivers, so that Calgarians can enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.

    Promote appropriate access points to access recreation opportunities on the river, while also protecting the riparian environment.

  • Provide better information around bylaws, safety, river conditions and more.

  • Create more economic opportunities for various businesses who provide services to help users access the river.

The River Access Strategy Draft Report will be submitted to Calgary’s Community Services Committee on February 1, 2017, followed by presentation to City Council for approval in March 2017. Calgary River Users Alliance as a principal stakeholder in recreation river use and Bow River Trout as a member of CRUA  were consulted extensively by Calgary’s Parks Department to develop the strategy.

We are very pleased with the  outcome. But at this stage, it is important to get feedback  on the draft report from the river user community at large. Therefore please respond by posting your comments below or by email

Future Looks Good For The Bow River’s Brown Trout

The Bow River’s Brown Trout are recognized worldwide as truly an  exceptional example of the species. It is not uncommon to catch one in excess of 24″ in length. Unfortunately there appeared to be a decline in the population in recent years. The Elbow River is used by the Bow River’s resident brown trout population as a spawning destination.  Calgary River Valleys a local environmental stewardship organization has been conducting annual Brown Trout Redd Counts on the Elbow River as an indicator of spawning success dating back as far as 1982. After years of decline, the 2015 survey showed marked increases in Redd Counts .

In addition to the Elbow River, the Calgary reach of the Bow River is also a spawning destination for Brown Trout. Trout Unlimited Canada – Bow River Chapter conducted a Redd Count Survey between Graves Bridge and Policeman’s Flats  in the fall of 2015 that showed impressive number of redds that were considerably higher than a previous survey conducted in 2005. The Bow River Chapter Data documents spawning locations within the scope of the survey with the highest concentrations in the Mallard Point back channel and adjacent to Popular Island. The survey will be repeated in 2016.

These surveys speak well for the future of the Bow Rivers Brown Trout Population


Calgary River Users’ Alliance – Recommended River Access Improvements


As part of the Calgary River Access Strategy passed by Calgary City Council in June 2016, Calgary River Users’ Alliance as a stakeholder in recreational river use has been consulted by Calgary Parks about the most appropriate access locations on the Bow and Elbow Rivers that should be considered for development.rafting

CRUA identified in excess of 50 locations that are currently used by a variety of river users. A short list of 16 sites have been identified that offer the potential for development to meet recreational activities within the city.

 Two categories of designated launch sites have been identified. Boat Ramps – that will serve all river users and Hand Launch Sites – that will serve kayak, canoe and tubes that can be carried to the river. The proposal requests that both categories of launch be serviced by toilets, garbage bins, benches and educational and safety signage.

The following site selection criteria was used for both Hand Launch and Boat Ramps:

♦Accessible from existing public roads. ♦Strategically located along the rivers to facilitate access and to offer a variety of boating trips. ♦Existing vehicle parking with room for expansion. ♦Room for improvement and/or addition of supporting amenities. ♦Accommodates as wide a variety of river users as possible. ♦Minimizes new disturbance to parkland by using established sites. ♦Avoids sensitive environmental areas and does not contribute to erosion or sediment input to river. ♦Does not interfere with use by emergency services.♦Avoids private property.

The 16 sites are:  Bow River – Stoney Trail / Bearspaw ♦ Bowness Park ♦ Shouldice Park ♦ Point McKay  Eau Claire  Sunnyside  Inglewood – 12 St. SE  St. Patrick’s Island  Cushing Bridge  Ogden Road  Graves Bridge  Quarry Park  Douglasdale        

Elbow River – Sandy Beach♦ Stanley Park  Inglewood – 8 St. SE  at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers

Further details for the site selection can be found at the following link: Access Sites

City Administration will take the river access proposal to City Council in March of 2017. CRUA expects to see a roll out of infrastructure improvements over a 3-year 13726778_1127289010663084_8211720443080653823_ndevelopment plan. In the meantime, we see that with very little cost, public trailered boat access should be reinstated at Stoney Trail and Shouldice Park above Harvie Passage and Cushing Bridge below. This would expand the drift boat fishing opportunities within Calgary.

Bow River Trout will be pleased to supply your comments on  launch site selection to CRUA. It will assist  with decisions as to which launch sites we should ask the City to consider for development and in what order of importance.

cityofcalgarylogo-01Parks Department is asking for general public engagement into the River Access Strategy. Visit their Website 

Whirling Disease Hits Upper Bow River

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed cutwd1the presence of whirling disease in the Upper Bow River earlier this month. Precautionary measures are being put in place by the Alberta Environment & Parks. Go to the following link for details AEP Whirling
 Disease Infomation

All river users regardless of their recreational activity  need to be vigilant  with cleaning their equipment and clothing following an activity on the Bow River. This is especially important when moving from one rive230905_4631601223_5999_nr basin to another. Details can be found in the AEP press release.

 “Clean, Drain and Dry”  & “Don’t Let it Loose” 

What Will the New Harvie Passage Look Like?

The redevelopment of Harvie Passage is under way.

What will the new development look like. Most important is a harvie1completely new low flow channel that is safer for all river users. The right bank of the Bow River will also receive and update as a part of the Bend-in-the-Bow project.

Work will continue into the Fall of 2016 and recommence in the Spring of 2017. A grand opening of the facility will take place in the Fall of 2018.

Details of the development follow:



Harvie Passage Redevelopment Starts

 Cripen burger

The Harvie Passage Alliance released the following information on August 31. We can expect to see some sediment in the Bow River downstream of Harvie Passage up to September 15.


The Harvie Passage project in Calgary on the Bow River has received Water Act Approval, the Temporary Field Authorization and Navigation Protection Act Approval. Construction should start in the next couple of days once the contractor has an approved ECO Plan and Care of Water Plan.

The contractor has mobilized the equipment to the site. The contractor’s construction draft schedule shows that work would start now and will continue till around the end of October after which the site will be shut down for the winter. Work would start up again in April 2017.

The work this fall includes diverting the river around HWC Drops #3L, #3R, and #4 prior to September 15th to allow rehabilitation of these drop structures in isolation from the river after September 15th. The contractor may also remove a portion of the gravel bar located upstream of the entrance to the Low Water Channel and dredge the portage channel upstream of the weir on the right riverbank.

Good news. And thanks to the Alberta Transportation Project Manager, Carl Wirzba and the consulting engineers, Klohn Crippen Berger.

Calgary River Access Strategy Moving Foreward.

Calgary River Users Alliance (CRUA) is please to see Calgary Parks Department moving forward on the Calgary River Access Strategy.

The motion passed by City Council in June gave direction to City Administration to develop a strategy for the existing river access points and develop new ones where needed. Administration was also asked to develop a plan to resolve the closure of Graves Bridge boat ramp to the public. CRUA, with 15 river user group membership has been part of the stakeholder consultation process to develop the River Access Strategy.

River Access Strategy Website

Calgary Parks Department is asking for the general public engagement into the strategy. A Website has been launched this week to solicit input and update the community as the strategy develops. It is important that members of the river use community express their support for the strategy and if you wish to be a part of the stakeholder group  please register on the website.

Graves Bridge Boat Ramp Access

CRUA has been assured that no immediate action will be taken to move away from continued public access. It is hoped  that abuse of the gravel bar is behind us. Public education is an important part of a plan of action to reduce any further damage.20160714_104030

  • The two concrete blocks will be removed next week.
  • Signage to be developed, recognizing trailer boat access to the nearest river edge and restriction access upstream.
  • Options for more protection of the gravel bar are being developed.

Calgary Parks Department has made a commitment to improve the amenities at river access points. Recent improvements can be seen at Grave Bridge. A park bench, garbage cans and a toilet were installed in July.20160714_104214

We can expect to see improvements at other sites in the near future.